The Porsche 917 was a sports prototype, meaning that it was meant to compete in motor sports rather than be sold to interested customers. As a result, it should come as no surprise to learn that the two versions of the car - which were labelled the 917 and the 917 K - had short production runs. In total, the 917 saw 25 cars built from 1969 to 1970 while the 917 K saw 12 cars built from 1970 to 1971. With that said, while the Porsche 917 was produced for no more than a short period of time, it burned bright, so much so that it is still an iconic existence for people who are fascinated by motor sports.
How Did the Porsche 917 Come Into Existence?
In short, the Porsche 917 came into existence because of a series of rule changes by the Commission Sportive Internationale, which was responsible for governing motor sports. Said rule changes were intended to encourage more car manufacturers to participate, which brought about mixed results. However, what is interesting is that they prompted Porsche to make a new car based on the Porsche 908. In part, this was because Porsche was already making new cars, using them in a race or two, and then selling the used cars to interested customers, meaning that making a new car wouldn't have been too much of a disruption in that regard. However, the more important reason is that Porsche wanted to claim their first victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which prompted them to complete their new car in no more than ten months' time.
How Did the Porsche 917 Fare?
The Porsche 917 had a less than impressive year in 1969 to say the least. In fact, problems started showing up when it was still being tested, which revealed that the car was more than a little bit unstable. Initial fixes failed to correct said problems, which to be fair, was because they were on the cutting edge of innovation for those times. With that said, the efforts to ensure an impressive result for the Porsche 917 so as to secure customer interest failed, as shown by how it came eighth at the Nürburgring 1000 km while positions one to five were secured by Porsche 908s. Even worse, when the Porsche 917 was entered at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1969, it showed some initial promise in practice, which it failed to live up to. The worst outcome was a driver fatality caused by poor handling, while the other cars performed well but were unable to hold on because of various technical issues coming up.
Unsurprisingly, Porsche was less than satisfied with the earlier results of the Porsche 917, which is why it called in outside assistance. As a result, the problem was found and fixed, which was made possible by the pattern of dead gnats smashed against the body of the Porsche 917, thus revealing how the air was flowing around it. As a result, changes were made to correct the problem, thus resulting in the Porsche 917 K. This time around, its performance on the race-track was much more impressive. However, what mattered most was the 24 Hours of Le Mans, where it proceeded to walk away with the prize for the first time. From that point forward, the Porsche 917 continued to perform well, though it received a number of updates until eventually, it became unsuitable for use because of new rule changes. There was a very short revival of the Porsche 917's racing exploits in 1981, but since the updated car failed to secure a good finish because of technical issues, that was the end of things.
Regardless, the Porsche 917 has more than managed to make a name for itself through its exploits on the racing track. In fact, it is interesting to note that a particular Porsche 917 is the single most expensive Porsche to exist so far, having been sold at auction for an astonishing $14 million in 2017. Said car wasn't just a test car for the 21 Hours of Le Mans but also the car that was featured in the famous racing movie called Le Mans, which explains much about its fame and thus its value to interested individuals. Summed up, it is clear that the Porsche 917 is one of the best-known Porsche cars that can be found out there in spite of its relatively short lifespan.
Written by Garrett Parker
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